Yesterday Tom and I attended worship at First United Methodist Church in Junction City Kansas. First United Methodist Church has two worship services: a traditional service at 8 a.m. and a contemporary service at 10:45. I thought it was unusual to have the traditional service so early, so I asked the pastor, Rev. Laurie Barnes, about it after the service. She said that the traditional service has been at 8 a.m. for 150 years. Back when this was primarily a farming community, the farm families would come in for worship after morning chores, eat a late breakfast together, and then head back to the farms.
We attended the contemporary service because we are not farmers and 8 a.m. was a little early for us. The sanctuary was a familiar style – the Akron plan – built in 1890. There were some beautiful stained glass windows, including one with flags on it donated by the local GAR post (Veterans of the Civil War). An organ was front and center in the chancel area with a small altar in front of it.
The service at First United Methodist was led by a good praise band but the sound system was a portable one that had a lot of static. We didn’t know any of the songs and, even though some of them had a good beat, no one else was clapping, so I restrained myself. The congregation was a nice mix of ages. The children left for children’s church after the singing and came back before the last song.
The sermon was part of a series about finding meaning in the Old Testament and it focused on the passages that Rev. Barnes felt were most meaningful in the book of Isaiah. The verses she highlighted were from Isaiah Chapters 40 through 63. There were two ideas in particular that I took away from the sermon. First, God may not answer our “why” questions but he will be with us no matter what we are going through. I liked this because we get so hung up on why. Why am I going through this? Why is God doing this to me? Why can’t ____ love me or treat me right? God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s whys are not our whys.
Second, Rev. Barnes quoted Cathleen Falsani who wrote “Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we absolutely don’t deserve.” Where would we be without the grace of God? We would be condemned. But because of Jesus Christ we are all children of grace.